Open letter to Mayor Michael Smith and council:
I had to leave before your discussion at the end of the March 4th council meeting, but caught it all the next day on Shaw TV.
I suppose I am naive, but I thought the council meeting was intended to listen to the community. Then, perhaps I expected that, at the very least, more definitive guidelines beyond those of staff for corrections to the overall Grosvenor plan would be in order, since Grosvenor might otherwise be wasting their time.
Instead, I realize that the meeting was merely a forum for the public to vent, and that Mayor Smith and Coun. Trish Panz in particular had already decided that this Grosvenor plan is fine and dandy, and that there is a need to get on with it in a hurry because much has been spent to get to this point.
I now hear that funds to pay for the new public safety building are no longer the issue when I thought that was the reason for the $37-million sale of our greatest property asset to a company that could afford to pay that price! Whatever adjustments staff made were just fine with Smith and Panz. None of the very real concerns of the community were addressed or defended very hard by anyone, but there was great concern indeed for the interests of the "world-class architect" and "world-class developer" who must not feel insulted.
The emphasis on the word "corporation," by the mayor, seems to imply that the object of the "corporation" of the District of West Vancouver is to make a profit. Is that correct? I am not sure how to understand that.
The Community Charter states that a municipality is a corporation of the residents of its area and the governing body is its council. The purposes include "providing for stewardship of the public assets of its community, and fostering the economic, social and environmental well-being of its community."
I question the substance of your stewardship of the assets of Ambleside at the site presently occupied by the police station in the 1300-block Marine Drive, and feel that council needs to spend a little more time protecting the citizens' rights and less time endorsing and supporting the grandiose dreams of a very small business group, thus facilitating the exploitation of our home community by Grosvenor.
To refer to the Ambleside community as the "Gaza Strip," is at best insensitive to a very real struggling community. To have an elected official repeat this term at a public meeting is simply unacceptable. The contempt shown in this outburst for the people of Ambleside is quite clear.
It is plainly obvious to all residents that the people who want this huge building on that wonderful site expect financial gain. Of course Grosvenor does. The many real estate people who speak for it at gatherings and meetings stand to make huge commissions on the bigger-the-better offerings in the market.
The chamber of commerce, which has also been involved at every opportunity, represents business owners who have been waiting for rezoning in order to profiteer from this community - which has deserved better treatment than has been meted out for the last 15 or 20 years (hence the mayor's term "disgraceful neighbourhood") while corporate interests have speculated and bided their time.
If the Grosvenor plan was not solely about profiteering, we would have had real options from which to choose. This plan adds nothing to the community, but exploits the neighbourhood for the sake of a marketable commodity. This is not a building for anyone in this community: our residents have been discounted in favour of business interests, even though a great many people have attempted to participate throughout the whole process - at public events, in letters and petitions - calling for restricting the buildings on the block to no more than four storeys, to fit the beachside and recreational scene. The delightful drawings presented at the fairs were misleading, since maximum size was evidently the object from the beginning. It is about maximizing profits for a very few at the very real expense, monetary and otherwise, of Ambleside residents.
The "consultation process gave teens a big say in design of Room 14" of the library, said the North Shore News. Well, it is obvious that consultation ignored the citizens of Ambleside throughout the whole expensive process in favour of the highly mobilized business community.
We have an official community plan to protect citizens and neighbourhoods from this kind of exploitation. Council has decided that this OCP need not be followed for "special" sites. "Special" shouldn't mean merely entitled.
This is about subsidy - Ambleside property owners subsidizing business. Inherently wrong.
Council needs to spend a little more time protecting citizens' rights and less time propping up the grandiose dreams of a very small business community.
Gail Cotter, West Vancouver